Volunteers seek names for Indonesia Cabinet

Volunteers seek names for Indonesia Cabinet
President-elect Joko Widodo.

Volunteers with no party links helped President-elect Joko Widodo win the July 9 election, and now, they are asking for feedback on who should form the next administration.

Mr Joko has said his "transition team", which will work out his top tasks and identify Cabinet members, will start work next month. But yesterday, a group of volunteers under the Jokowi Centre and Radio Jokowi circulated on social media a survey on names to fill 34 ministerial positions.

Mr Joko, known as Jokowi, said he welcomed the effort, but added that nothing was confirmed, and that he has 2½ months to name a Cabinet - he takes over from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono only on Oct 20. While he thinks the feedback exercise is fine, he stressed that the final decision on appointments would rest with him.

Mr Joko has all along said he wants ministers who are appointed on professional merit, not just party functionaries. And observers are certain that he and Vice-President-elect Jusuf Kalla, or JK, will continue with the tradition of recent governments by having tested professionals run key ministries like finance and foreign affairs.

As it is likely that the new administration will have to take the interests of current - and potential - coalition parties into account by giving a handful of seats to their members, the feedback exercise seems aimed at ensuring that the ministers are acceptable to the public.

Mr Joko said yesterday there was not always a dichotomy between professionals and party men: "There are many professionals among party people."

He also hinted at some degree of continuity with the outgoing Cabinet, saying he and Dr Yudhoyono had been discussing the transition and the outgoing government would also prepare a team so the handover is smooth.

Public policy academic Wijayanto told The Straits Times there are ministers in the current Cabinet who are capable and have integrity, adding: "Jokowi-JK need not be reluctant to recruit them."

But he acknowledged that various political parties also had to be represented in the Cabinet, although capability had to be the main criterion. Mr Joko may also have to contend with demands from senior members of his Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle for seats. Analysts said those who might be retained from the current Cabinet include Finance Minister Chatib Basri, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Pangestu.

Mr Dono Prasetyo, who heads the Jokowi National Secretariat, another volunteer group, said the feedback exercise was "in line with Jokowi's style" and would increase public participation and accountability.

But Mr Jeirry Sumampow of civil society group Indonesian Voters Committee noted it was still early days, but that the public now has a chance to reject those who are "problematic".

"Not all the people around Jokowi are capable, not all are good, and they should not be given a free ride in the new administration," he added.


This article was first published on July 25, 2014.
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